Islanders Move to Barclay Center Not All its Cracked-up to Be!

Hey, are you a hockey fan? Yes? Good. So you must know who the New York Islanders are and how well this franchise has been doing over the past decade.  If not, well, you haven’t missed much (still, could be worse). They have been stashed away at the bottom of the Atlantic Division for some time now and have been playing at possibly the worst arena in hockey, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The oval-shaped building comes equipped with sixty-seven pairs of existing doors, which can disperse a capacity crowd of 16,000 in seven to eight minutes. The trouble for the Islanders over the last few years, has been trying to get 16,000 people inside the building, not out.

The Islanders’ lease at Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015, thank God. This building was a disaster for everyone involved, except maybe the fans, since the tickets were about 50 bucks on average for the bottom bowl and much, much cheaper, for the higher seats.  The oldest building in NHL did not just feel old, it smelled old, and as every old building in America, it also had asbestos problems.  Let’s just say this is not a building that NHL superstars want to come and play in 40 games a season, and while I’m not a doctor of anything, I can’t think it would be good for their health.  I mean, asbestos?

Charles Wang, owner of the struggling franchise, has long asked for help from the Long Island to build a new arena and super-shopping complex in the area to spurt the growth of the humble area and make his Islanders a bit more attractive to UFA players. Nassau County voters last year rejected a $400 million proposal (original building cost only $30 million) to overhaul the building. The Islanders have a lease to remain in the Coliseum through the 2014-15 season and that’s it folks.

Brooklyn, we go hard? Charles Wang says, “Yes, yes we do.”

The long rumored and long speculated move to the Brooklyn’s Barclay Center has finally come true. The Islanders are breaking away from the Long Island (well, Brooklyn is sort of part of Long Island, but shhh, don’t tell them that) and its dilapidated building to hopefully turn around the losing franchise, but also, and most importantly, to turn a profit.

So, will this move be everything and a side order cheese fries?

The first important thing to take note of here is the seating arrangement, because let’s be honest, bums in seats bring in the coin. There is no doubt that by moving to the Barclay Center, the Islanders increased the capacity that can easily come and watch them play. Even NJ locals can now take two trains and get to see their NJ Devils play the Isles away from Newark in about an hour of travel time.

The old seating arrangement for the Islanders back at the Coliseum:


The proposed seating arrangement for the Islanders at the Barclay Center(2011):


Errrr….Well there seems to be a problem here, no? Some stats first:

Coliseum has capacity for over 18,000 fans, 6,800 parking spots, and 32 luxury suites.

The Barclay Center is only able to seat 14,500 fans in its hockey configuration, 130 suites (not sure how many for hockey), and very poor parking space – MTA is the way to go here.

So essentially, Isles fans can kiss goodbye the $50 lower bowl seats!

The Islanders’ attendance for last year was 13,191, so technically speaking, the Barclay Arena should have no trouble fitting the Islanders faithful inside. The problem is that this is the attendance average of a young, soon to be very good, Islander team. If the team reaches its potential, and many think it will, and starts making the playoffs, the attendance should hover at max capacity every game. Good news for the owners, bad news for the fans. The 25-year deal is sort of frightening as well and even if the complex is rebuilt slightly in the next two years to accommodate the influx of hockey headed its way, I do not see them matching the average capacity of other modern arenas that hover around 18,000 seats.

The ticket prices are always driven by demand (not players’ salary as owners and the NHL will have you believe). My comrades and I have visited multiple Islander games just for the simple fact of how cheap their seats are, and I am sure that we are not alone here. The days of $50 behind the bench seats look to be over by 2015 season and this simply sucks. I know we can’t complain as the Islanders should be a better team at a better location (under brighter lights sort of speak) but gosh darn it, this stinks.

Look, the old building did suck, but it did not suck that bad, I kind of liked it. It had cheap seats and made it easier on us regular folks to take kids, friends, girlfriends to join us for a hockey game. For comparison, and this will be the likely scenario with the Islanders at the Barclay Center, the NY Rangers attendance last year was 18,191 per game on average. Do you know how much an average ticket to MSG to see the Blue Shirts play was? $66, and that is mostly due to the large amount of seats in the upper bowl. If you wanted the 100’s section you shelled out at least $140. If you calculate the food and beer costs, you are spending $400 on one game for two people for decent seats…and that’s not even including vodka!

Last year, we went to see the Islanders play and paid $45 for 3rd row seats, got to hear players swear, got to see Islanders win, and got free Wendy’s Chili – by the way, thanks Tavares! One of the best hockey nights ever.

Look, there is no doubt in my mind that this move will be a good thing for the franchise, no matter how awkward the seating arrangement is going to be. What concerns me is that having less than 15,000 seats seems OKAY, right now when the team is not exactly winning. The move to an arena that can’t support growth is really saying that you don’t anticipate growth, and if I were an Islanders fan, that would worry me. What worries me as a fan of hockey in general, is that once the Islanders do start winning, the hardcore fans will be pushed aside due to high ticket prices in favor of bandwagon upper-class who fancy them a winning team to watch, and there will be no more free Wendy’s Chili!

Maybe I am being too much of a romantic and being too naive.  What are your thoughts?


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